Pitching a Book to Nine Agents: Lessons Learned

Nine. That’s how many times I’ve pitched my novel idea to an agent or acquiring editor. The transition from writing to pitching is really steep; if you’re an artist and not a salesman, it’s terrifying! I’ve spent years trying to manage the completion of my novel Still House, and I’m finally (finally!) at the stage of trying to find an agent–someone who believes in my book enough that they will go to lengths to sell it to a publishing house.

Some of my pitches were miserable (both in that I didn’t know what I was doing AND that the results were less than desired). But some were met with enthusiasm and a lot of really encouraging comments. Between those two varied types of experiences? 5 years and a lot of learning and practice.

Agents #1, #2 and #3:

My first was the worst. Nearly six years ago, I had my story, but I was struggling to finish the novel before I gave birth to my third child. I was at a conference that was very friendly to new writers and those who were not quite done. Agents and editors were willing to speak with people who weren’t done, just to give them practice and guidance. I had NO game. I went in trying to summarize my behemoth of a dual-time plot with as much grace as an elephant on in-line skates. I saw three agents that day.

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The response? The first was very no-nonsense. She was from a big publishing house, the most influential of that market, and she had little patience, while being polite, for my pitch. I didn’t know enough to know I shouldn’t have bothered trying to pitch to her. I had no idea that all the books they published had a very specific view of women’s fiction that required my novel to have only one point of view character who must be a woman as well. My 4 POV (point of view) character novel, two of them men–never had chance. Not only was she not interested, but she was not encouraging. She told me not to try to finish such a complicated story with so many main characters; she said a first-time novelist should start with a single point of view character, that’s it. Another agent had a similar response.

I had one positive experience that year. One agent was interested and gave me her card for after I finished. She gave me a reading recommendation of another writer who succeeded trying something similarly complicated.

Agents #4 and #5:

So then I had a baby and my project was shelved for a while. But I finally got back at it and attended a smallish conference with agents for multiple markets.  This time I had a practiced, memorized pitch. But it was agonizing, it was complicated–like my plot. I’d sat in a class at that conference, writing and rewriting it, then spent the evening in the hotel practicing and practicing, making it the most stressful conference I’d ever gone to! I met with two agents, with the caveat that I knew I wasn’t done because I needed to cut a lot of words to meet industry standards. Both editors were provisionally interested. One said, she’d be interested if I really focused on one storyline over the other.

Agent #6:

A year later, I was going to my biggest conference yet. I had hired an editor that year to help cut the book down. The book was meant to be done before this big conference–my most intimidating one so far. This was serious, this was real. But the editor who thought she’d be done with the book prior, wasn’t. She promised it’d be just a few weeks. So I went to pitch my book to a big New York City agent who specialized in debut authors of my genre–with the promise that I’d have the completed manuscript back from an editor in mere weeks.

This time, my pitch was more refined. I managed to get across the two timelines of my story and the main characters. I had my pitch memorized, but worked to make it relaxed, not rattling off words like someone had a gun to my head. The agent and I had a reasonably good conversation–and he wasn’t nearly as intimidating as I expected.

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The agent was interested and asked me to send first chapters. (Sadly, this modest success was all circumvented by the editor not being done in a few weeks. Long story–and that’s an entirely different topic. What ensued was the unable-to-conceive-reality that it’d be another year until I actually would get that manuscript back from an editor, finished!)

Agents #7, #8, #9:

Late spring, I went to another conference, big in my experience. I had two pitch appointments with editors scheduled. And then something perhaps lucky or providential happened the morning of my appointments. I went in to the tail end of breakfast, and the silverware from the tables had all been cleared away. Except one table. One girl was sitting there, and I joined her.

We chatted a bit, and I asked what kind of writing she did. She said, “No, I’m an agent.” I thought I knew what all the agents looked like, but she looked somewhat different from her picture, and I really had no inkling. So then she asked what kind of writing I did. And we had a nice, easy few-minutes conversation about literature. I did not try to pitch my book to her right then and there. It didn’t feel right.

But I talked about how much effort I’d put into this complex beast of a dual-timeline plot I’d been trying to master and how I’d invested years into trying to figure out how to tell the story I was passionate to tell. In those few minutes, I was impressed with her knowledge of the genre I write in, and she told me other writers and books to check out; she really knew the market.

So later, I check with the person managing all the agent appointments to see if this agent had any openings left. I was given her last appointment of the day.

Which was awesome, because of the three, she turned out to be the most enthusiastic.

All three appointments went very well–the agents met my work with interest. Even the one woman who made grown men nearly cry. (True story; while I awaited my turn, an older man who’d gone before me was visibly shaken as he shared how curt and non-encouraging this particular agent had been. It wasn’t the first time I’d heard that either.)

For this pitch, I had a memorized pitch designed to hit all the points–but with one difference compared to ones in the past. I’d learned at a baby shower–of all places–the key to hooking others’ interest.

Photo from iStock

Let me be honest, I was still groaning two months prior when anyone asked what me novel was about. Because I struggled with how to succinctly portray it. Over the years, I’ve tried many angles. I’ve tried to talk about the two marriages in the book, the two generations of the family, the issue of infidelity, the concept of family secrets… They are all in my book.

But at a baby shower, I was asked by people I’d just met to explain my book. And most of them were considerably younger and in a different stage of life than I, and I learned something interesting as I went to something I knew instinctively to be the best default : I led with the house as the main character. That is my title after all: Still House. The moment I said, “My story is about a house that attracts two different generations of the same family (but neither realize it at first), and the house spills their secrets,” the listeners leaned in, saying “oooh.”

So that is what I took to lead my pitch.

In the end, two of the three agents asked me to follow up by sending first chapters. And the one who did not was really very helpful and generous, going out of her way to encourage me. Though she was looking for novels that are lighter–more like beach reads–she made a point to tell me she’d read my opening the previous evening, before she knew it was mine, and told me if was the “most compelling” of all the other novel openings presented. She made a point to let me know how polished my writing and professional presentation of myself were. She could have just ended that appointment early and had some down time. But instead, she chatted and offered some tips to help me find the kind of agent I need. Her generosity still astounds me.

The third agent was the one who had a reputation that preceded her. i’d also seen her talk at an agent’s panel and she struck me as abrasive. Let’s just say I didn’t have great expectations when I walked down the few steps and approached her conference table.

So I was surprised when my time with her went well. I didn’t experience any of the things I feared. She was, however, quick to suggest big changes to my story–like ones that would require a complete overhaul. Like, “What if you told the story from another character’s point of view?” She had quick and strong opinions on a story she’d heard described in one paragraph, and it was a little unsettling.

The two agents who were interested in reading my first chapters were both attentive and inquisitive–really asking insightful questions about the inner working of my plot. I think I succeeded each time to be conversational, and not resorting to the halting words of someone painfully spewing line after line of a planned speech. I finally had gotten comfortable enough in telling my story that I could field questions I’d not prepared without panicking and feeling overwhelmed.  And I left with each of the agents’ cards and the specifics on what to send for their next round of consideration.

Through these nine different agents, my pitch and presentation of myself as a writer changed drastically. I think I finally learned the art of a successful pitch.

Onto the next part of the journey!

 

Other posts:

Writing a Novel in 9 minutes a Day? Is that Possible?

When People Treat Pets Like Babies…

Books My Son Likes: Flora and Ulysses

A Late Reader a Gifted Reader?

Best Advice to Beginning Novelists: Don’t Write Chapter 1

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Writing a Novel in 9 minutes a Day? Is that Possible?

“The 9 Minute Novelist”–the title of an article I read in 30-second intervals while at a coffee shop with my six-year old.  This article in Writers’ Digest was made for someone like me. Maybe the fact that I have to read articles in 30-second intervals is an indicator, as I’m interrupted by minutes of questions, a spill of tea, the re-ordering of tea, etc. (The spilling of said tea resulting in my need to buy the magazine with said article inside…) The way I read–fitting it in between real-life needs of my kids–mirrors my writing life.

The title drew me in–from sheer disbelief. But a perverse curiosity took over–I didn’t believe it could be true, and yet, what gave this writer the audacity to title the article as such? Did he know something I didn’t? 9 minutes?

After reading the article, I came away with two premises on which this writer’s idea rests. 1) It’s about math. About how many words you can produce in a minute. 2) It’s based on the assumption (true) that if you carve an hour of your day to write, you may be really productive for only a small portion of that time. Perhaps 5-15 minutes only?

Assuming you can write 100 words a minute, he lays out how you should be able write between 300 and 900 words in nine minutes. Mathematically, you’d need only 90 days of this to reach 80,000 words, the average novel length.

All true. I’ll agree, by the math, you can produce that many words. But I know enough about writing to know that out of those 900 words, maybe 100 will actually be good enough to keep. Or maybe all of them will later meet the guillotine of revision.

So it’d be a far cry from reality to submit that arriving at 80,000 words means you’ve written a novel. But I think the author’s point is that, if in 90 days you could actually type 80,000 words–well, you are accomplishing something, After a year of that kind of productivity, maybe you’d have a novel draft.

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His second premise really bugged me. Irritated. Goaded. Because it was spot on. In an hour of writing time, I can accomplish surprisingly little that fills the page.

But I took issue with the idea that it’s possible to write just 9 minutes a day BECAUSE you may write only 9 productive minutes out of an hour. If it takes me an hour to get nine minutes of worth of good stuff done without distraction, can I expect that I can actually just do the 9 minutes of work and not the other 51 minutes it took to get me to the place where I could produce?

So much of the “writing” I accomplish is the fruit of many more minutes of thought, meandering imagination, internet surfing, researching, outlining. diagramming, sketching, webbing…  It’s easy to get frustrated that I accomplish so little actual typing of words into a document, and yet, it is true that all the other things I do (except checking social media) make me able to have something to type. So what could I actually accomplish in 9 allotted minutes to write a day? Break down my ratio, and the way I reckon it, by the time I even orient myself to my writing and gear up for it, I’d have one minute in nine left, then the time is over!

So I blew off , at first, the entire idea that 9 minutes a day of writing time could accomplish anything.

I knew this because I knew I didn’t know where I was going in my current book project. Every time I get writing time, I’m re-reading what I previously wrote, brainstorming, plotting, etc.

Then–I realized–what if I had a game plan, an outline or something? Maybe I actually could accomplish something in short time periods a day.

So this hair-brained idea of “9 minutes a day” spurred me to spend some time writing a sort of outline. Well, a list, really. Well, lists for each character. Just a lot of scenes/events I know need to happen in a certain order. I thought, if I had those lists formed, maybe I could accomplish something in shorter time spans because I could easily look at the game plan and see what to do next; the pre-planning would be done. It wouldn’t require me to think so hard when I can grab writing minutes (very early in the morning for me.)

I haven’t been able to carve out an hour a day. It’s usually between 20 and 45 minutes, just four mornings a week. (Wow, if I put it like that, it seems more depressing than I thought. I’m trying to write a book in half an hour, 4 days a week??? Am I nuts to even try?)

Then, for my birthday, I got a rare day to myself, and I had the mental freedom and time enough to really think about my story. I wrote those outlines/lists of scenes.

For a month now, I’ve had my 20-45 minutes of writing time before I make breakfast, and an amazing thing happened.  I’ve written many scenes and whole chapters! And unlike the process of my first novel, these chapters are ones I KNOW are necessary to my story. (In writing my last novel, I was meandering, trying to find my story AS I wrote.)

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So while I cannot say I’m succeeding at writing a novel in nine minutes a day, I am more productive than I’ve ever been in short spans of time. Because I have a plan, I can much more easily plug in for short time periods.

So my take-away is: I can write a novel in little bits of time–if, and only if–I’ve had a big chunk of time one day to make a least a partial plan, a go-to list for what to do when I have those 9 minutes, or 30.

Really, this isn’t earth-shattering, new information: that you will be more productive if you have a plan. But it is new to me that I must, absolutely must, find a new way to write that is utterly different compared to how I composed my first novel. The last time I began a novel, I had no children, then shortly thereafter, a baby. I had lengths of time in which I wrote. Freedom, somewhat, to meander util I found my story.

But now–with three kids–no. I have to adapt and learn the skill of producing fiction in short increments each day. Time is such a luxury.

Other posts:

Best Advice to Beginning Novelists: Don’t Write Chapter 1

My Current Step in Publishing: Looking for an Agent

Ever Feel Like You’re the Least Favorite Teacher In Your Homeschool?

Books My Son Likes: Flora and Ulysses

 

 

Posted in life with kids, writing life | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Ever Feel Like You’re the Least Favorite Teacher In Your Homeschool?

Yeah, it’s saying something when you’re the least-favorite teacher in a  one-room-schoolhouse kind of situation. But I’ve felt it.

The weirdest part is, I’m used to being popular. I was a favorite camp counselor, a beloved student teacher, and the kind of school teacher who was used to having kids tell me I was a favorite. Now I homeschool my kids. How can I be a great teacher in a classroom with others’ kids but a poor teacher to my own children?

The Problem:

Because I felt like I was failing last year, I’ve contemplated, what is really the most important factor, the one thing that really makes a difference between a good and great teacher?

Now here’s the confession: I began wondering this for the very honest reason that I saw I was NOT being a great teacher in one area of my life. I worked part-time to tutor and  homeschooled students, and I have been told many times that I am  great at it. My students there show all the indications of enjoying my classes and genuinely liking me as a person.

But I also taught at home, to my own three homeschooled children, and it was not the same. They didn’t seem to enjoy me nearly as much as my older students in the classroom. Some days it was like pulling teeth to get them to do anything, let alone to enjoy it or have a good attitude. The only one who didn’t complain about school was the youngest,  the 4/5 year old who didn’t do very much yet. I counted last year as my worst year homeschooling; we may have  checked off all our boxes of required things, but it didn’t feel great. (And it used to be different; my boys used to enjoy our homeschool.)

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Why did it seem like I could teach anyone else’s students and not my own? Was there an inherent truth to that? (You hear it a lot–from people who don’t homeschool on why they don’t. “I could never teach my own children”; “They’d not listen to me”; “They don’t want to take instruction from me.”) Is this just normal, to be expected? And there’s nothing I can do about it? I’m boring because I’m mom?

Or was it the social aspect? Do I simply need at least 5 kids to re-create the magic that happens with my students in our homeschool group? So I should not hope my 3 kids, different ages, could ever be expected to get that with just me at home? (Note, they do all attend classes two days a week, so they have peer interaction and other tutors/teachers leading them.) Did all my strengths as a teacher apply to only to a larger group of students?

My Hypothesis:

I spent months trying to distill what was going on. I reviewed my ideas of what I thought made a good teacher: good lesson plans, classroom management, creativity, accurate assessment, interesting content, etc. It seemed I could bring all that to my homeschool and still, I was not a beloved teacher in my own house with my own kids as I was with others’ kids. To make a long story short, a series of revelations helped me zero in on the big difference between my classroom of students and my homeschool: the version of me they got. (I wrote about those revelations and conversations with two other teachers in Second-Decade Teacher Wisdom: It’s Really About HOW You Are)

Let me break it down for you:

Me teaching other students last year: Me teaching my children last year:
Patient and gracious Often impatient
Quick to laugh; I know students learn more in a relaxed atmosphere Quick to get annoyed or frustrated
Having a sense of humor; it de-escalates a multitude of problems (a student getting frustrated, awkward social situations, incorrect answers, age-related silliness and off-task behaviors) Little sense of humor, heavier on discipline
Exuding joy. (I was described as that by a student who wanted his mom to drive him further to be in my class again) What? Joy? How about low energy, even boredom?
Gracious about mistakes, missed assignments, poor performance Quick to scold for mistakes, missed assignments, poor performance
Seeking to encourage. Sometimes seeking to encourage; sometimes just frustrated they needed more encouragement
Pray for them individually before class, asking God to help me be what they need from me that day. Yes, I pray for them but don’t start every morning with this intentionality with the same intensity.
Cheerleading, praising successes. Not giving enough time for celebrating their accomplishments. Quick to move on.
Alert, prepared, ready to give of myself. Tired.
Looking for ways to say “yes” and solve students’ problems. Quick to say “no,” and sometimes hoping not to solve problems, especially in ways that require energy.
Pleasant to be around. Not always pleasant to be around.

Ouch, that one list is embarrassing. If I could sum it up, I could just say, the difference was, I was “pleasant to be around” with other peoples’ kids. Really? It comes down to that?

I could talk about other things going on. Relate the fact that last year, I was struggling with a health issue that justifiably wiped me out. Tiredness or chronic pain can sap your creativity and patience, not just your energy. We could talk about how teaching your own kids every day is more draining than a group of kids you see only once a week. True. There are challenges you face with the every-day (all-day) kids that a once-a-week teacher never has to deal with. All true. I could cut myself some slack for not being able to give my two groups of students the same experience.

But in the end, it wasn’t ok with me, no matter the whys. I wanted to enjoy teaching my children; I wanted them to enjoy their education at home.

The Changes I Made:

So this most recent school year, I went into it with my eyes open to this factor of pleasantness with my kids.

But the year started out pretty rough. My sons came off of last year with a seemingly bitter taste still in their mouths. It was like the February sludge in late August–like they’d not had a break in months and were weary from the word go. They were uncooperative, negative and openly saying they disliked school to anyone who would ask. We had a rough few weeks. I even had to tie their allowance to their demonstrated attitude about schoolwork.

But while all the above was going on, I worked at being more like the teacher I am with my once-a-week class. I worked at being quick to laugh and having a sense of humor; for me it seemed the gateway to all the rest. If I’m quick to laugh and have a sense of humor, it is easier to cultivate patience and graciousness. Having a  sense of humor helps me stay in the moment, and that’s where the joy comes in. I’m really with them, tracking with them, and that gives me a lot of energy as I truly enjoy them. (True for my teen students; true for my kids too–what d’ya-know!) I also worked on my sleep schedule so that I’m better rested, after abusing that. (Look into the affect of blue light from screens on the quality of your sleep.)

And I changed some of my homeschool goals so that I would be more pleasant. I have a son old enough that he could read literature all by himself with little interaction from me, but I decided to plan into our day time to talk with him about the books he’s reading, not just because I think it’s super important to discuss ideas in the books (English teacher here!), but also, because I think that’s perhaps the most likely place for me to be pleasant and enjoy what we’re doing. (Sometimes, you have to help yourself; set yourself up to succeed.) I could have streamlined our school day by delegating that to independent study, but I did not, in order to make me a better teacher and so he may enjoy our learning more.

The Results:

We’re about half-way through this school year, and I can easily say I’m a much better teacher for my kids this year. And my kids are now cooperative, laughing, interested more often than not, and no longer acting like surly sloths. Over the holiday, someone asked one of my sons if he liked being homeschooled (and he’s usually an honest kid; I’ve heard him tell people “no” before), and without hesitation, this time he said “yes.”

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We have laughed a lot more. I’m more patient. I am more inclined to follow their laughter and silliness rather than try to stop it and redirect them to efficiency, talking to them about “time.” I have been more patient in the way I handle their math time, even adding in games for one of them to make a non-loved subject less painful. I have been determined to be patient with the pace they need and the pace that allows us to enjoy life and our studies. I have consciously been aware of my impatience or boredom some days and chosen to be patient and gracious. These are all things I’ve done with students who aren’t my kids–because I know they work, build our rapport and, in the end, help accomplish more learning in the end.

There is something to be said about the fact that I, and maybe other teachers, show a better side to others’ children while just expecting more from our children without the same level of graciousness toward them. Does it come from the fact that I know if I’m not running a classroom students enjoy being in, I won’t be hired again and/or students whose parents choose to pay to put them in my class will not choose to? My children don’t pay to be in my class or my family; they have no choice. I know better than to be a boring or unpleasant teacher with a negative attitude when it comes to classrooms with others’ children. And yet, I allowed myself to be that way with my own kids for a time. I wonder how many homeschool parents can relate to this.

But recognizing it’s possible, common or even likely to happen doesn’t mean I’m ok with it. I got into this homeschooling gig because I wanted my kids to LOVE learning and to enjoy learning at their own pace.

So I’m continuing this year of homeschool, asking myself, “What would Mrs. Lannan Do?” and applying it to what Teacher Mom should do.

If anyone else out there is recognizing this in themselves, let me encourage you that it doesn’t have to stay that way. It is correctable. You can be a better teacher for your kids!

It’s one of those things you choose, and choose again. Every day. Sometimes every hour or minute by minute. I have to cultivate it to make it become my habit.

So today when my 9 year old son was being silly, interrupting his own reading lesson by telling some boy-humor joke related to bodily functions, I sat and watched him talk with a smile on his face and considered my options: to be annoyed, to demand him to stop and press on with the lesson, or to take two seconds and laugh with him. I decided I could afford a few seconds to laugh with him because of what it gave him. It gave him mirth. He was comfortable, he was relaxed, he was enjoying something. He always reads better and learns more when he’s in that mood. And if he later repeatedly tries to get off topic and be silly, I can keep my sense of humor and draw him back–without having to stomp out his smile. It’s what I know works so well with other peoples’ children…

Other blog posts:

A Late Reader a Gifted Reader?

Books My Son Likes: Flora and Ulysses

Three Quick, Nutritious Go-To Breakfasts

Second-Decade Teacher Wisdom

Classroom Management and Motivational Techniques

 

 

Posted in homeschooling, life with kids, teaching | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Second-Decade Teacher Wisdom: It’s Really About HOW You Are

I’ve had two conversations of epiphany with two different teacher friends of mine. We had these astonishing revelations, at the same time, of why we are better teachers now than when we were younger. (And what makes a teacher “great” anyway…) Our second decade of teaching brought us all to the same realization.

The first conversation was with a friend from college coming to a city near me for a conference. We met up for dinner in Philly during my favorite time of year to be in that city: Christmas, with all its lights and tinsel winking like the heaven dusted the city with stars.

We’d both been English majors who’d earned teaching licenses, but the years had led us down very different paths with our degrees. Though neither of us had a full-time teaching job at a school in many years, we’re both nonetheless teaching professionally in ways we didn’t foresee. One of the topics of conversations I’ve been chewing on in the more than year since then is, What makes a great teacher?

One of the concepts that stuck from my teacher preparation courses is that being “reflective” is one of the most important qualities a teacher should have. Figuring out what works and why is important.

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In my 20s, I answered that question, “What makes a great teacher?” with a variety of things over the years as I gained more experience teaching:

  1. interesting lesson plans
  2. creativity
  3. lesson plans so completely planned to a variety of unexpected outcomes so I was never caught with nothing to engage students
  4. effective classroom management skills
  5. good, fair assessment techniques
  6. teaching/training students how to respect each others
  7. building a positive class atmosphere

In recent years (the second decade since college graduation), I’ve been thinking the last two are the most important things a teacher can do to help students in class to increase students’ ability to learn as well as succeed in life. (I’ve written about it a lot, starting with Creating an Encouraging Classroom.)

What about my list? Do I think I still make good plans, exercise creativity, etc? Am I better because of of those got better?

Well, many of those items have really loosened up. My lesson plans are not quite meticulously over-planned as they once were. (Honestly, most of my lesson plans are scribbles on post-it notes.) Creativity? Well, some tell me I’m creative, but they didn’t know what I used to do–when I was a crazy person, single, without kids, and sunk inordinate amounts of time in things that were creative for the sake of being creative. I’ve learned (through necessity) to dial it way down. Perhaps I’m not less creative or have inferior lesson plans, but maybe I’ve just learned to do both in a smarter way. Maybe I’ve internalized elements of good lesson plans so thoroughly that I don’t need to spell it out anymore.

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I do spend as much attention as ever to classroom management and teaching the students how to respectfully communicate with each other. I think those are necessary; I’ve found no short-cut. No way around them if you have a classroom full of students. Good classroom management and an atmosphere of respect allow everything else I desire to occur.

But my friend and I were learning something new–and from funny situations. Teaching in on-the-fly situations, weird-context situations and times we didn’t have it all together. (Because, let’s be honest, we were moms now with 3 kids each, the youngest approaching 5, and we just couldn’t be as polished and prepared on paper as we were trained to be…) And yet, we’re better. And not just because we have enough experience to be able to wing some lesson plans. We know enough to know it takes more than knowledge to pull anything off, especially on a whim or when unprepared.

More than 15 years post graduation, my friend and I were coming, independently, to the same conclusion. There is something else is even more important than the items on my list that enables those to even succeed. She called it “using your personality.” What? Personality? She talked about “personality” as though it were a tool to utilize.

As we tried to put our fingers on exactly what was making us better, we were using words like “personality,” being “ourselves” more, being more “relaxed,” building “rapport” better. We were getting closer to distilling these words to a concept that maybe was so ridiculously simple (though not easy). Yet so important.

I was told in my 20s that a strength of mine was building rapport by the principal who  visited my class within a month of my hire.

But I wasn’t a great teacher yet. There’s more that I needed that I didn’t have yet then. You can build rapport in many ways. Even poor ways. You can build rapport with certain students through sarcasm and other negative ways that don’t benefit all people or lend to a positive atmosphere in your class. So it has to be about more than just connecting to students any ol’ way that works. And it includes things like “personality”; being”relaxed,” being “ourselves.”

Since then, I’ve been thinking it’s one word: pleasant. My ability (or choice?) to be pleasant. Can it really be that simple? Being more pleasant as i age is what is making me a better teacher?

I met with another teacher friend recently for dinner. She has 20 years in teaching English As a Second Language in public high schools. We had this amazing conversation about how we’ve changed since our twenties, and she shared what she was better at and what made her better. And I shared my revelation with her and we just stared at each other: we had been thinking the same thing.

We were simply pleasant to be around. Add that to our content knowledge, experience, lesson planning ability and creative ideas, and we are so much better?

Were we unpleasant when we were younger? We talked about knowing we were once more impatient with students. Less understanding. Quick to say things like, “Well, if you’d started the assignment when I assigned it…” Quicker to bring justice than mercy. To have “I told you so” attitudes. Quick to point out failings. Less tolerant. And yet, we considered ourselves good teachers and were told we were. And we knew of plenty other teachers with really bad reputations and considered ourselves young, fresh, creative and a breath of fresh air.

But we know we are so very different now. Now we’d say we’re quick to laugh, quick to find opportunities to recognize joy and take them. We’re more relaxed and more gentle. Pleasant to be around.

If I think of a typical day with my students, I laugh a lot. Because I know it’s an elixir. Good humor covers over many things. Good-natured laughter can make frustration dissipate, offense lessen, wandering attention harnessed, disinterest disappear, stress relax, lack of engagement reverse. And it can make kids feel comfortable. Having a classroom people enjoy being in is a top priority. Students learn the most when they are comfortable and feel accepted, relaxed and secure.

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In my classroom, I am also generally more patient, gracious and encouraging. I intentionally look for opportunities to be so. I wasn’t intentional about all these things when I started teaching.

And in all that, I’m still strict–as strict as my first students would probably say I was. I’m strict about what is allowed to fly in my classroom, including how people treat others, how they speak, what words they use, etc. I have expectations and standards that have not loosened. (In fact, I think they have tightened over the years.)

This friend at dinner also said something about ego. We’ve realized it’s not about us, our lessons, our “great ideas,” our creativity. We’re different in our demeanor because it’s about the students and what the students need. I’m much more motivated now by what my students need from me as a person, whereas I used to be more motivated by what I thought students needed academically and what they needed from me as a lesson planner with knowledge to transmute to them. I think more now in terms of ministry, asking God what I need to be for my students.

Letting go of the ego is why we have the freedom to be more pleasant; we’re not trying to prove ourselves.

I still teach content. I still think it’s valuable. I’m still passionate about many of the things I teach about. But I’m way more passionate about what my students need most: for me to enjoy them, encourage them, build them up. For me to be quick to laugh, show good humor rather than high stress. To be pleasant to be around. That is the difference. Our classrooms are better places, lessons go better, and relationships are better. In every way we know to measure, we’re doing better by our students.

So my mantra is now this: Be pleasant, and when given the choice between frustration or laughter, choose laughter.

P.S. If anyone here is a homeschooler, this factor, or lack thereof, played out in my homeschool life versus my outside-the-home teaching. Actually, this comparison led me to the conclusions of this article: Feel Like You’re the Least Favorite Teacher In Your Homeschool?

 

Other posts:

Books My Son Likes: Wonder

Creating an Encouraging Classroom

Classroom Management and Motivational Techniques

Feel Like You’re the Least Favorite Teacher In Your Homeschool?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Confessions of a Failed Blogger; How to Turn It Around

In the past, I tried writing two different blogs. Both failed. Failed both in the sense that I gave up and also in the sense that they were so rarely read.

I know exactly why. What I was doing is on experts’ “what not to do” lists. Like, don’t write about writing if you’re a writer. (So over-done, even if you’re a successful writer.)

But I’ve felt the PRESSURE to have a blog. The MUST-have-a-blog pressure. Because if you want to publish books in this ol’ world, you must have an online presence and platform. These were truths I cringed at. I’m a novelist. I don’t have time for a blog too! I am lucky I get my teeth brushed sometimes, between all the demands of mothering, tutoring, homeschooling, running a house, maintaining a marriage, and writing/editing my own novels! And to succeed takes every ounce of my creativity to manage fitting that into my life at all, I have to–on top of all that–write a BLOG!!!

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Yeah. Just a little bitterness.

I created 2 blogs years  ago but never really wanted to be doing either of them. When I started, I tried to make it less painful by writing about what was on my mind already, or easy. But still, my heart wasn’t really in it. And blogs like that have a major flaw: if I’m not considering a reader or writing something readers NEED, how can I expect it to be read, except by very dear friends who just care how I think?

You Really Can Grow an Audience, Even If You Have No Fame…

But my current blog, my third, is faring much, much better. I changed what I write about and my entire purpose and strategy for it.

I’m now in my third year for this new blog. In my best months, my blog has gotten 8,000 to 10,000 reads a month. I started by garnering 32 reads total for one blog post. IN its entire life. But now, two of my most popular posts, Basics of Drawing: Fine Arts, Week 1 and Mirror Image Lion Drawing: Week Two now have over 5,000 and 6,000 reads respectively. I’m no celebrity blogger; I have no name recognition. But having that many complete strangers read anything I wrote on the internet, without a magazine to push it, is pretty darn great from my perspective. What changed?

Expert Advice Changed My Blogging Popularity

A blogging expert once instructed me that, to succeed in blogging, you have to create content that people want, that people need. Connecting to them is another story, but first, you need to write about things that people want to read–but even more, that they will search for.

My writing about how I’m working on my novel did not fit that definition. My two failed blogs were the kind only close friends would care to know about.

But nearly two and half years ago, I started posting my drawing lesson plans that I use with classes of kids. At the time, I was instructing older elementary aged kids in a homeschool group, and I knew that around the country, there were literally thousands of people who are contracted to teach the same drawing lesson topics in the same program franchised throughout the nation. Well, at least I knew theoretically that someone may have been interested.

 

The month I posted four drawing lessons, my blog hits record went from 32 in one month to over 10,000 that month. I’d connected with other instructors through a Facebook group just for us. And I also saw that some people found my lessons by googling the key words of the lesson topics.

So I’d finally, after three blog sites, found content people wanted, needed, even asked me for. Those who taught the age group I did looked for my lessons specifically, and some followed me and asked if I was going to post future lessons, and a year later, I got messages asking if I planned to share lessons again, and the next. Each year, my lessons are read at higher rates.

There was a time I thought, I don’t have the time to scan each step of my drawing examples and write up instructions so another teacher can run with it! It is time-consuming. And as a once-paid freelance writer, I did some balking at providing content for free that media used to pay for.

But when I finally decided to simply be generous, everything changed.

Generosity Generates Meaningfulness

A surprising side-effect is the exhilaration of actually helping people. Hearing that the lessons helped students around the country, and hearing other instructors tell me they gained confidence in their own abilities to lead art classes–well, that’s an amazing thing to be part of that.

I never set out to blog about teaching-related topics. My goal for my blog was to follow the advice of Kristen Lamb who suggests that you are your own brand, and successful blogs can come from you writing about a variety of things that in combination define/interest you. (This advice is in opposition to long-time advice of media experts who say that you must find a niche and write about only that one thing.) She also talks about writing high-concept posts; I’ll have to work on that some other time… I’ve followed that advice a couple time…but mostly not…

So it just happens to be true that what I have to give directly benefits other teachers and instructors and tutors. Aside from art lessons, I’ve also shared a series of posts on classroom management for middle school age students .

 

I learned those posts gave people information and ideas they were asking for, searching for. Just as I was sometimes desperately searching for help for music or science classes, and I benefited from other generous instructors who shared their wealth of knowledge and experience, I could share the wealth of what I’d learned over approximately two decades of working with students. God took me on a journey, and it has given me some wisdom; I’ve learned better ways of being and doing. I have something useful to give.

I reached the stage of my life where I’ve felt that I am exactly where God meant me to be, where, as author Frederick Beuchner puts it, my “greatest joy meets the worlds greatest needs.” Well, maybe not the world’s… but on a smaller scale…

It’s amazing to know you have something to give back AND to know how to communicate it AND to actually connect with people who are actively looking for what you can provide.

Creating meaningful content that people appreciate creates its own high.

So now, in my third year of this very blog, I’m writing about a variety of topics–everything from reviews about middle grade/YA novels my son likes, parenting issues, classroom management, homeschooling topics, and the impact other writers have had on me. I like that my content flows organically from just simply my life; I can write a curriculum review or about Round-Up spray and resultant cancer that killed my father (My Dad, Monsanto and Christmas Trees). I never know which posts are going to take off. I’ve been greatly surprised more than once.

 

 

I can share recipes that would be valued by other busy homeschool moms or share ready-to-travel breakfasts (Three Quick, Nutritious Go-To Breakfasts) for the day my kids and I go for classes with our community, or about Eating Grain Free/Sugar Free at Hershey Park.

Getting Traction

Here’s some encouragement for friends who blog with the goal to gain readership: it’s really true what they say–the more you post, the more traction you get. I noticed last month that my lowest daily number of hits on my blog are the same or even better than my best days of my first 6 months. Example: one of my early posts got a total of 32 reads. Ever. And that was all within a couple days of posting. And that was my most-read post in the beginning 6 months. But for the past year, my blog got an average of over 86 reads a day, even when I’ve not posted anything in weeks, (or in the case of last autumn, nothing for months).

Connecting to People Who Want to Know What I Know

And the beauty of it is, I’m now connecting with people who can find help and answers and ideas–or at least the camaraderie of shared experience–in my posts about every day life. I’ve learned how to:

Finding Your Audience

You can do this by:

  1. Sharing in online groups of people where you already are, people who do what you do (or have done). That was a game-changer for me.

Also, sometimes when I’m in groups of people online and someone asks, “Can anyone recommend any books for a reluctant reader son?”

Well, I can share what I’ve already recorded on my blog, and people thank me because it’s just what they were looking for! Or, some other teachers or tutors are struggling with managing 13 year old boys in a class and ask for help. I can briefly reply that I’ve taught that age group for many years,  and that I can share what I’ve found that works well for me, and attach a post describing my philosophy and methods. I’m too busy wearing all my hats in life to usually write long answers, so having a post written about it already means I can actually help.

2. Creating content on information you think others will literally search for (and use good keywords and tags for your post!)

For example, I’d looked for tips about eating grain-free at Hershey Park and found nothing, so I decided to do it myself at the end of summer. (We went so many times last summer after being gifted season passes.) And that’s something other grain-free people want to know, something they will google; my writing can provide solutions. I like writing with a purpose.

And as a sign that my writing is truly answering a need, I now see others posting my blogs in answer to others’ questions, testifying that it helped them with that same concern/question/need.

Today, I also just found out that the Artsy Craftsy Mom blog linked to one of my art projects); her website kept showing up in my list of addresses that drive traffic to my site. Links from other bloggers have occurred before, but I think this is the first time it was for an art lesson.

I was so surprised to find today, just in looking at my stats differently, that one of my posts has been the #1 most-read for 16 weeks in a row, at a rate of 40-70 hits each week. I had no idea. Maybe lions are popular? Maybe mirror-image drawing is popular? Unsure…I seriously had no idea.I also looked into why my lion mirror image drawing gets so many hits–every day. I found that multiple people have pinned it on Pinterest.

I’ve not arrived as a super successful blogger by any means, but it has reached the stage of being meaningful. I’ve met at least the beginning of the intersection between worthwhile content and connecting with the people who are looking for it.

So You Want to Start A Blog….?

If you are considering blogging, my best advice to you is: Don’t shrink back from writing because you think there is nothing new, and everything you could say has already been said. It is truth, don’t get me wrong. I know everything I write about is being done by many other people, every day. But as I shared with a friend who started blogging within the past year about raising foster kids they adopted: Sure, maybe many others are blogging on the same topics–but people you are connected with may never connect with the other people writing about it. There are people only you can reach; there are ideas only you will be in the right place to introduce to someone within your sphere of influence.

Yes, there are other people who can do or have done everything I have to offer on my blog–but I am uniquely connected to the people I know and who are in my sphere of influence.

Some writers get paralyzed, thinking thy have to offer content unique in all the world. Very few people in a century can really claim that. All you have to offer is helpful content for your sphere of influence.  In the world of online content and blogging as it is, it is actually necessary that many bloggers are covering the same things; there is such a glut of information. Many, many amazing bloggers will never be known to people who could benefit from reading their work. So it’s up to us to write what we can if it helps those who find us. Whether it’s 30 or 200 or 3,000 people.

 

Other posts:

Ten Mom Excuses Not to Get Around to Blogging

Second-Decade Teacher Wisdom: It’s Really About HOW You Are

Books My Son Likes: Wonder

When People Treat Pets Like Babies…

Best Advice to Beginning Novelists: Don’t Write Chapter 1

The Ink They Left On Me: Writers Anne Lamott and Tracy Chevalier

 

 

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Books My Son Likes: Wonder

So my son doesn’t love to read. Finding books he enjoys is a challenge, so finding those gems makes them worth sharing. The novel Wonder is the second book my middle grade boy loved. And I mean loved, loved, LOVED. Enough to choose to read it in his free time.(The first? Books My Son Likes: Flora and Ulysses.)

Part of the trick of eliciting my kids’ interest in something I want them to care about is by being indirect sometimes.

I first checked out the book Wonder by R.J. Palacio for myself. (I no longer remember why.) I was listening to the audiobook in my kitchen as I prepared meals. It engrossed me immediately, and I soon noticed, my son was hanging around the kitchen.

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Sometimes I let him listen a bit; other times, I turned it off. By the time I nearly finished the novel, he was moaning in complaint when I turned it off when he entered the room.

This happened the most when the book was talking about Auggie, the main character, and his struggles starting middle school and anything having to do with his facial deformity.

So when I borrowed the book from the library for him, as one of a few choices for him to read, he was eager to devour the book. His interest in this book marked a transition in his reading interests. While his taste in stories (any form–movies, books, audiobooks for fun, etc.) used to revolve around fantasy; suddenly, he was more interested in kids living life in the real world and all the social issues they face.

The second time he asked for a book as a birthday or Christmas gift was for this novel. He wanted his own copy to read again.

That’s how good this book is.

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Things my son liked about it:

  1. The description of a homeschooled kid starting middle school. As a homeschooled kid himself, he has a lot of curiosity of that process
  2. Stories about overcoming bullies seem to hit their mark with him.
  3. He loved the dialog, especially the humor and the banter between characters. He went around the house repeating parts he liked.
  4. Auggie’s and the family’s struggles seized his compassion; he has always been sensitive and compassionate (qualities I prayed for for him when he was in the womb), and reading books like this make him eve more empathetic.
  5. Sections told from different characters’ points of view caught his attention, and he enjoyed the technique.
  6. The feel-good ending of Auggie’s triumph socially is the pay out my son loves to see in stories.

Things I liked about it:

  1. The message was excellent and excellently portrayed. It addresses so many important issues of kid life and life in general.
  2. I loved that the focus was not just on the kid characters; point of view chapters from the parents and older sister and her friends give voice to something our homeschool aims at too: that the only important people in life are not just you and your peers. People of all ages are valuable, to be taken seriously.
  3. Characters were entirely relatable and likable.
  4. In a world of literature where most main characters are kids with missing, estranged or negative parents, this book showed an awesome, loving family that wasn’t cookie cutter or generic. The depth of feeling they had for each other was revealed so realistically and made an impression on me. If I ever write middle grade or YA fiction, I hope to be ale to portray a family so well.

As for my son, he received the movie adaptation of this book for Christmas, which he loved, and it drove him right back to reading the book again. As always, the movie left out so many parts he liked!

 

Other posts:

Books My Son Likes: Flora and Ulysses

A Late Reader a Gifted Reader?

Review: Phonics Museum Reading Program

Review: Phonics Museum Reading Program

The Ink They Left On Me: Writers Anne Lamott and Tracy Chevalier

 

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Review: Phonics Museum Reading Program

Confession: I looked into the Phonics Museum curriculum, originally, because of its theme. Not because it was classical ( a very specific philosophy of education I did not espouse at the time). Not because it was made by Veritas Press (I didn’t know who they were.) Not because it matched my philosophy of reading instruction.

I looked into the program because there was a knight on the cover. True story. I was smitten, on behalf of my knight-loving son. It also featured great art, featured a little cardboard museum and miniature prints of famous paintings for kids to hang in the museum, each painting serving as an anchor for a letter sound. (I was a art minor in college, and an avid drawer, and my son was following in my footsteps.) Also, there was Percival, a metalic suit of armor, as a character in an accompanying storybook, who takes kids on a tour of the museum (and the alphabet).

 

 

My son was not particularly interested in school or learning the alphabet. He could learn just fine, but he wasn’t chomping at the bit to learn to read.

But he had been obsessed with everything about knights and medieval times for a couple years already. (I no longer even remember how that started. ) And I know that enthusiasm for a thing carries one a lot further along… So I bought Phonics Museum…despite the fact that I knew I didn’t like the italics that the workbooks taught for writing both the K and 1st grade books.

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My oldest loved everything having to do with knights…

So that’s how I chose the program. Now I’m in the midst of my third time using it, so I feel qualified to give a review.

THE POSITIVES:

 

 

       My daughter’s favorite mini painting is of dancers (“D, d-d–dancers”) by Degas.  

  1. It is beautiful. The phonics cards featuring great works of art, the matching mini paintings to hang in the museum, the cardboard museum itself, and the illustrations of the primers–gorgeous! Oh, did I mention my son was a budding artist? He spend at least two hours every day drawing mostly knights at this age, so I wanted a program with great visuals.           img_3219   My favorite illustrator was Ned Bustard, with whom I’d been familiar as I’d previously worked in a bookstore that carried his book.   Examples of his work above and below.img_3218
  2. The brilliant concept and how the first story book, for use in lesson 1, draws the child into the concept of adventure in this museum. I loved the idea of The Phonics Museum story as the anchor. The character of Percival is whimsical, likable and magical, and I loved that for my son. The concept is very creative and inviting.
  3. The primers’ rich topics caught my son’s interest. With his love for old history, I remember his excitement when we unpacked the box and he saw a primer about Rob Roy. There are so many great historical characters/events in these primers, and some favorites include: King Arthur’s knights, Alfred the Great, Charlemagne, Queen Elizabeth…as well as other noteworthy people/characters not on my son’s radar, like Ella Fitzgerald and Ben Franklin, and Greek mythology. I loved that the content was rich and more stimulating than simple stories about kids and dogs, etc.
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  5. Workbook pages that focused solely on recognizing a letter and/or recognizing a sound, using a lot of visuals. They were basic, simple, easy to use, and effective.
  6. The teacher’s guide is pretty thorough. It’s set up for classroom use, but that has a benefit in that you see how it is accomplished in the classroom, and you can adapt it to your home.
  7. The guide has considerable focus on interaction with the student; it’s not meant to be simply a workbook experience.
  8. The songs were pretty catchy. Though I skipped many. We were doing another program with lots of songs, so I didn’t keep up with the songs through the whole second year of the program. but they do still know the “ing, ang, ong” song…
  9. History focus. Most of the books featured historical people and events, and I liked the blurbs on the back of the books that related the history the book came out of. My son was one who wanted to know, “What was real?” and this was perfect.

The NEGATIVES

Oh, help.

I dislike that I have so many negatives to share.

  1. The Phonics Museum story book, while wonderful in concept, had some typos. Missing commas, commas and periods mixed up–mostly punctuation issues. Granted, I bought the combo kit 6-7 years ago, so perhaps the company has by now done a reprint. I do hope so. My writing also has typos. . . (Ask me about the free Shutterfly album I made of our Disney trip and had to retype in minutes before midnight before the coupon ran out!) I hope I’ll always fix things when I find out! But the primers are not like that, so the story book stands out on its own with this issue, but it IS the first book you read, and it affects your first impression. In my copy, I used my pen and correct things.img_3221
  2. The italics instruction. I just never wanted to teach my children italics as their handwriting system. (All that slanting and curly-cues–and almost joining other letters like cursive, but never really…) Printing or cursive, sure, but never italics. But that’s just my preference. I bought the set anyway, planning to not use those sheets and instead supplement with another handwriting set.
  3. Students are expected to read things in primers before actually introduced in the lessons. To me, this is the worst feature of the program. For instance, the second primer in  the Kindergarten program, which is titled Bad Meg. The primers’ words are restricted to words with the few letters kids have been introduced to so far, and/or the “special exhibits” (common sight words taught to make basic texts readable). However, you’re reading along in this book, and you get to the word “cap,” which the child has no chance of reading because it starts with a “c,” a letter with a sound not yet introduced. This occurs in  lesson 42, but the letter C is not introduced until lesson 91. Similarly, the hard “c” sound shows up on worksheets prior to its introduction. There are other instances of this type of problem but I’ll let the situation of the C stand in as an example for the rest.img_3202
  4. Primers are too lengthy. I appreciate the content, but some are just too much. The student gets bogged down. Now that I’ve had three students do this program, I can see it wasn’t my one child; it was all 3, regardless of their prowess in reading. It took multiple days of reading a few pages at a time to complete a primer. It’s hard to keep momentum reading such books. And sometimes, one book was really dense with many, many words on the page, but the next one was so much easier, the words on the pages sparse. It seemed the progression with length was not gradual.
  5. Pushing, or developmentally too advanced for a large percentage of students. I get that it’s classical. I get that classical programs are whole hog on the phonics method, because classical education is all about things being taught systematically; they want kids to learn the skills of decoding so they will have the tools to read anything. I agree with that whole-heartedly. However, marketing the books for kindergarten and first grade levels is where I found the problem. I just found this on their website in describing this program: “Teaching children to read at a young age is one of the best things parents can do for children’s future academic success.” This is a thought pattern our country has bought into in a way that has been having dangerous consequences.
    1. So much has been discovered about brain development and the fact that the corpus callosum, the portion of the brain that connects the left and right hemispheres of the brain, doesn’t even form in most boys until the age of 7–and yet, the decoding skills necessary to do this phonics method are aimed at students in kindergarten, which in our country is typically 5. Granted, I’m a homeschooler, so I chose to not start my boys in the curriculum in kindergarten. I used the kindergarten book for first grade or later.
    2. Now, the average 5 year old girl already has the corpus collosum formed, and true to brain development norms, my 5 year old daughter has been doing this Phonics Museum K book in K, within weeks of turning five–and doing it with much more ease than her brothers did when they were a year or more older. I just wish curriculum makers were more sensitive to this information and how they marketed their materials, so parents could be more accurately guided.
    3. I used Phonics Museum for my boys, but I knew after I saw the curriculum, that I’d have to wait at least another year to use it. For my boys, my version of kindergarten was much simpler–the way it was when I was a kid. Both boys were good at drawing, so we learned to write the alphabet, sing songs, etc. I didn’t focus on decoding, on matching the abstraction of a sound with a symbol; that skill was more appropriate for when their brains developed the corpus callosum. Oh, they learned songs and repeated letter names and sounds together, and that was useful to get into their long-term memory–but I was not giving them worksheets on decoding or circling pictures to match the given sound. That could wait. I’ve written about teaching my boys reading, and more about brain development in boys, in A Late Reader a Gifted Reader?
  6. The concept that each primer be read multiple times is tough. If a kid doesn’t love the story, trying to get them to read an over-long primer that took 5 days the first time is not an easy sell. And sometimes we simply didn’t do it. There are other ways to review those words. (But I had the burden to figure out how…)
  7. While it covers ancient through modern history pretty well, very little covers Eastern history. The topics range from many European events, as well as Ethiopia, the Middle East, etc. It’d have been cool to have stories from China, Japan, the islands, etc.

HOW I MADE IT WORK:

I obviously used the program, despite parts that I did not like. Three times.

A. I worked through the problems with my first child; I fixed typos and made notes about lessons out of order, things to skip, things to change, etc.

B. I also made it work by ignoring the grade level on the books for both my sons. For each, when they were 5-6, I didn’t even open Phonics Museum. I did an old-fashioned ( pre-1990s) kindergarten; we learned each letter and its shape and sound but were not decoding or trying to read.

C. But I still made it knightly, prepping them for the theme of Phonics Museum. As I taught my oldest at home, I introduced the alphabet by drawing a card for each letter on which each letter was formed by a picture of something medieval (A is for arrow, and the A is formed by arrows; B is for Breastplate, and the B is in the shape of a …breastplate! you got it!) (I wrote about why in Personalized Theme Alphabet for Preschool/K).

D. I also didn’t hold myself to the lessons in the book and feel we HAD to finish a primer in one day, as it always says. (Note, homeschoolers, these primers are marketed for the homeschooler and Christian schools; the lessons show the primers being read in round-robin fashion in the classroom. So if the average classroom has 10-20 kids, that means a child in that room is decoding only 1 in 10 or 20 words–so it’s never expected that your child read all those words themselves!) Eventually, I compensated by reading many of the words the first read through, then fewer on the second read through (if there was a second…)

 

Other posts:

Books My Son Likes: Flora and Ulysses

Books My Son Likes: Wonder

Eleven Tips for Making/Tweaking the New Homeschool Schedule

Three Quick, Nutritious Go-To Breakfasts

3 Reasons Why You Should Still Garden (even when you don’t really have time to do it well)

Basics of Drawing: Fine Arts, Week 1 for Classical Conversations

 

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